DOG SKIN PROBLEMS
While allergies are the most common reason for skin problems in dogs, dogs may be affected by skin parasites, fungus and bacterial infection. Hormonal changes based on age, environment and sex of the pet may also lead to skin problems. As with any other organ, it is best to treat skin problems and itchiness early in order to prevent further discomfort to your pet.
Allergic Skin Diseases
Allergies in dogs are common. Signs such as itchy skin, nasal and eye discharges and sneezing, and/or digestive upsets and/or skin lesions may indicate an allergy is present. Many skin diseases seen in dogs are caused by an allergy.
An allergy is a hypersensitivity reaction to allergy-causing substances known as ‘allergens’ or ‘antigens.’ Dogs (like people) can develop allergies at any age, and the signs can appear quite suddenly. The most common allergy dogs develop is the flea saliva. The presence of a single flea on these allergic dogs causes intense itching. These allergies are seasonal in climate zones where fleas are eliminated by the cold in winter months — and a year-round problem in warmer climates.
Atopy (atopic dermatitis, allergic inhalant dermatitis) is a pruritic (itchy) skin disease dogs develop in response to inhaled particles such as house dust, molds and pollens. This common form of allergy usually starts at a relatively young age. Rarely, dogs can be allergic to chemicals contained in soaps, waxes, carpets and flea collars. This type of hypersensitivity is known as a ‘contact allergy.’ Also, some dogs are allergic to insect bites and stings. Food allergies usually case diarrhea and/or skin lesions.
Itching is the primary sign of allergic skin diseases in dogs. The affected skin may appear normal, or red and moist in patches called ‘hot spots.’ Pus and dried crusts are apparent if a bacterial infection is also present. The dog tends to constantly scratch and lick affected areas. Initially, flea allergies are most evident over the dog’s back and near the tail. A dog’s face, feet, chest, and abdomen are more often affected by pollen and dust-type allergies. Contact allergies are seen mostly on the hairless areas of the abdomen and on the bottoms of the feet.
The dog’s case history helps with the diagnosis. The intense itching and location of the lesions are also helpful in diagnosing the type of allergy present. Response to treatment (flea control) is often used as a method of diagnosis of flea allergy. Trials of special hypoallergenic diets are used to diagnose food allergy. Allergy testing is used to help choose immunotherapy. Blood tests are also available to diagnose allergies, but their use is more controversial. Ask your veterinarian for his or her current recommendations.
Allergies can be controlled in most cases, with few ‘cured.’ Antihistamines and corticosteroids may be used by your veterinarian to give your dog relief from the intense itching. In most cases this will stop the self-mutilation. The owner will be instructed to give corticosteroid tablets in decreasing dosages for a few months. Corticosteroids are potent drugs and should not be used carelessly or for long periods of time. The main objective in controlling flea allergies in dogs is to kill the fleas on the dog and in the dog’s environment.
The preferred approach to allergy control is hyposensitization (immunotherapy). In this procedure, a correct diagnosis by intradermal or blood testing is necessary. The dog is then given injections of small but increasing doses of the allergy-causing substance at varying intervals for up to 12 months. Lifelong response may take up to 12 months.
Hormonal Skin Diseases
Skin diseases caused by hormonal abnormalities in dogs are difficult to diagnose. The thyroid gland, adrenal glands, pituitary gland, testicles and ovaries all produce hormones. If excessive (‘hyper’) or deficient (‘hypo’), these hormones produce changes in the skin and hair coat. Most hormonal problems that affect the skin produce hair loss that is evenly distributed on each side of the dog’s body. The skin may be thicker or thinner than normal, and there may be changes in the color of the skin or hair coat. These diseases usually are not itchy.
When any of the hormone-producing glands malfunction, they affect other body functions besides the skin. Hormonal skin diseases in dogs can be much more serious than a ‘skin problem.’
Some causes of hormonal skin disease, such as hypothyroidism and adrenal gland problems, can be diagnosed by special blood tests and effectively treated. Others may be more difficult to diagnose and treat. Skin changes related to the sex hormones can be successfully treated with surgical neutering, if this has not been performed previously.
CANINE SKIN DISEASES & ALLERGIES
The following information is for your reference only. We suggest that you take your dog to your Veterinarian for a proper qualified diagnosis and the appropriate subscribed treatment.
BACTERIAL SKIN INFECTIONS (PYODERMAS)
Staphylococci (‘Staph bacteria’) are the most common organisms found in bacterial skin diseases (pyoderma’s) in dogs. Fortunately, these bacteria (S. Pseudintermedius) are not contagious to humans or other pets.
Commonly itchy, yellow pustules are often observed early in the disease, and the dog’s skin can be reddened and ulcerated. Dry, crusted areas appear as the condition advances, along with loss of hair in the affected areas (lesions) and an odour.
All areas of a dog’s body may be involved, but most cases are confined to the trunk. The chin is one area commonly affected. Called chin acne, this condition is actually a deep bacterial infection. Obese dogs and dogs of the pug-nosed breeds are frequently affected by pyoderma in the skin folds on their face, lips and vulva.
Other areas where pyoderma may occur include between the toes and on the calluses of the elbows that mostly affects the abdominal area in young puppies.